Yemenite Children . . . 629 BCE Mesorah From King Shlomo's Temple . . . Given Away
(the importance of maintaining ancient customs will become evident with Beis Shlishi)
Newly revealed documents shed new light on
'Yemenite children's affair' in the 1950s.
'Yemenite children's affair' in the 1950s.
The Yisrael Hayom newspaper presented documents which reveal new details in the 'Yemenite children affair' and appear to reinforce the claims that Yemenite newborns were taken from their families and given to other Israeli families during the 1950s.
In one case, a child was 'ordered before he was even born.
The paper presented a document sent in 1951 to the WIZO babies' home in Jerusalem on behalf of the Welfare Office, requesting that three children be taken from their parents on various health or social grounds, without a court order or other legal explanation. In this case it emerged that one of the three children in question was not yet born when the document was sent.
The newspaper also presented the testimony of a nanny named Tova Schlesinger at the Tel Aviv WIZO.
"We can not tell you anything about the WIZO adoptions, because they hid it from us in an unusual way," Schlesinger said. There was a room where the social worker transferred a child from my department to show him to the adoptive parents. There were children there who did not exactly look European, including Yemenite children. No one knew in the WIZO department where the children came from ... We asked and they did not tell us ... I happened to care for a certain child for a while and one day when I arrived the boy was not there. I asked and they said that he went home or that they came to get him ... We knew from the start that the King George WIZO had given him up."
Police documents show how the police explained the closure of files relating to complaints about the disappearance of the children. The newspaper reported that in a letter from the national police headquarters, dated August 1959, entitled "Search for children who disappeared," the deputy head of the criminal department of the police wrote:
"We have ten cases that are almost identical ... So far we have not been able to locate the child in question. In our opinion, the cases are due to irregularities in the hospitals in 1950-1949 for the following reasons: The Yemenite babies hospitalized were mostly 'starving' and the treatment within a very short time in the hospitals changed their appearance so much that their parents were not at all aware. The Yemenites - we were informed by the knowledgeable - had a custom to pick up children and even buy them. It is very possible that the missing children were taken by other Yemenite immigrants. Under these circumstances, I see no real possibility of advancing the matter by further investigations, which in my opinion will add nothing.”
Historical Ancient Yemenite Jews
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Jews first settled Yemen, a very ancient country, in 629 BCE, after the Prophet Jerimiah predicted the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish people were treated quite well in Yemen. In fact, many of the rulers of Yemen, called the Himyaties, converted to Judaism. In the 3rd century, Judaism became the official religion of Yemen, and remained so until Ethiopian Christian rule in 525. The Jews in Yemen were treated quite well and high in number until the Muslim conquest during the 7th century. During this time, Jews had to pay high taxes and were often times not allowed to practice their religion publicly. Over time, Jewish and Arabic culture mixed, creating a language known today as Judeo-Yemeni Arabic. The Yemenite Jewish culture became even more unique during Ottoman Turkish rule, in which culture and religion were rarely suppressed.
The next major wave of oppression came after the a Zaydist (a form of Shi’a Islam) tribe took over Yemen. This tribe forcefully deported all Jews in central Yemen to the city of Mawza. After a year, the Zaydists forced all Jews to return to central Yemen, since most of the Jews were tradesmen who would boost the economy. However, the Zaydistis destroyed their houses, synagogues, and businesses. Jews were told not to build their houses or businesses higher than any Muslim’s house and were not allowed to practice religion. During the 19th century, the Jews were further suppressed when the Imamics took over Yemen, who stated that Jews could not practice their customs and that all Jewish orphans should be taken away to be converted to Islam. This sparked a mass immigration of Jews from Yemen to Palestine. It was illegal for a Jew to leave Yemen at the time, so Jewish communities often fled in secret. Several years later, Operation Magic Carpet rescued 49,000 Yemenite Jews, leaving on 3,000 left in Yemen. Today in Yemen, there are only around 100 Jews remaining.
As you may have figured, the Jews arriving in Yemen were culturally different from the Jews in Israel, whom they had no contact with for over 2,000 years. The Yemenite Jews spoke Judeo-Yemeni Arabic while the people in Israel spoke Modern Hebrew. They also had very different Synagogue services, wedding traditions, and customs.
The Customs that Survived thanks to the Yemenite Jews arutzsheva
- Yemenite immigrants, to this day, still practice the ancient custom in which every person reads the portion when he is called-up to the Torah. The observance of this custom is one of the reasons for the proficiency of many Yemenite immigrants in Torah and grammar (Peninei Halakha 22: 5).
- […] Only four species of grasshoppers are permitted by the Torah, and they have two signs from the Torah, and two signs from the words of our Sages (Leviticus 11:20-21; Chulin, 59a). However, in all the Jewish communities the tradition about grasshoppers was forgotten, and only in Yemen and Morocco, where grasshoppers were prevalent, was the tradition maintained regarding the kosher grasshopper, which is the locust that multiplies in huge flocks. In practice, although other members of the other communities were not accustomed to eat locusts, it is kosher for all of Israel, for those with a tradition are trusted in this matter (Peninei Halakha: Kashrut 17: 8).
- […]the original enactment of our Sages’ was for Birkot HaShachar to accompany the process of arising in the morning, and for everything to be blessed adjacent to its benefit, and by doing so, the process of getting up in the morning receives a deeper meaning, with the blessings of thanks to God accompanying each stage of arising. Consequently, over something that one does not receive benefit – no blessing is recited. This is how Rambam ruled in practice, and only among the Yemenite immigrants do some still follow this custom to this day (Peninei Halakha: Prayer 9: 2-3).
- […] The Sephardi minhag is to turn to the West when saying “Mizmor le-David” and all of “Lecha Dodi“, and the custom of all Ashkenazic Jews and some Sephardi Jews is to turn to the West only at the end of “Lecha Dodi” in the section that starts with “bo’ee b’shalom“. But the Yemenite custom, and that of some Sephardim, is not to turn to the West at all, nor to the entrance of the synagogue, because this custom has no source in the Talmud.
- […] the intention is literal, “to and fro’ towards oneself, and up and down, without having to turn to the four winds (Rambam 7:10), and this is the custom of the Yemenite Baladi Jews (Peninei Halakha: Sukkot 5: 2).
- […]The accepted practice of the teruah shofar blast is like the sound of crying, i.e., short, broken sounds. The Yemenite custom is like wailing, such that the sound is not truncated but trembles and rattles, and all the tremors are considered one sound. Upon examining we find that the teruah in Ashkenaz and Sephard is similar to an outburst of crying, which is truncated uncontrollably, whereas the teruah in Yemen is like a wailing which is done as an expression of crying and mourning in a controlled manner, as is customary among Yemenite immigrants, to have greater control over emotions (Peninei Halakha: Yamim Nora’im 4: 11). The Yemenite immigrants also are accustomed to raise the tekiah and the teruah at the end, and one who pays attention understands the intention is to express in the tekiah the height of joy, and in the teruah, the height of sorrow.
- The foundation of the custom of saying Tashlich is based in the period of the Rishonim of Ashkenaz, and throughout the generations, after the Ari praised it, it also became prevalent among Sephardim. However, there is no obligation to observe the custom of Tashlich; in fact, some of the greatest Torah scholars did not observe it (the Vilna Ga’on), and this is the custom of most of the Yemenite Jews (Peninei Halakha, ibid, 3:15).
- The Rishonim were stringent not to eat meat and not to drink wine during the Nine Days, since our Sages said that we minimize joy during these days. However, the Yemenite immigrants hold by the law of the Mishna (Ta’anit 26b) that only at the seudah mafseket before the fast of Tisha B’Av do we abstain from eating meat and drinking wine (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 8: 13). The custom of Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews from the days of the Rishonim is not to take a haircut during Sefirat Ha’Omer, however, the minhag of ancient Yemen was not to prevent taking a haircut at all during Sefirat Ha’Omer, although later they began to be stringent in this matter. Rabbi Masharki, the author of “Shtilei Zaytim” and the Maharitz (Pe’ulat Tzadik 2:76), instructed getting a haircut on Erev Shabbat (Peninei Halakha: Z’manim 3: 9).
- […] Only the immigrants from two communities, Yemen and Morocco, meticulously guarded the tradition of nikkur, according to which only about 5 percent of the weight of the hind flesh is lost. Since this is a reliable tradition of God-fearing Torah scholars, other members of communities who wish to rely on their tradition are also permitted. However, in hechshers intended for the general public, it is customary to take into account the stringencies of all communities, as does the Yerushalmi nikkur.
- According to Sephardi minhag, when a sircha (adhesion) is found on the lungs of an animal – the animal is treif, and therefore it is obligatory to eat “halak”, namely, animals found not to have sirchot on their lungs. However, the Yemenite tradition was to be lenient and check the sirchot by means of peeling with a knife, and examination by emerging in water to see if there is an aperture, in accordance with the specification for kosher meat. And the proof of their method is what is known empirically, namely that these sirchot do not kill animals within twelve months. This was more or less the minhag of Ashkenaz and Morocco, as well.
- In the opinion of Rambam and other Rishonim, the rule that “ein bishul achar bishul” (a food item which is cooked has no prohibition of cooking it again) applies also to liquid dishes such as soup, which, if cooked completely, even though it cooled, it may be warmed up on Shabbat to the temperature of ‘yad soledet bo‘ (the temperature at which the hand recoils). This is the minhag of Yemenite immigrants. On the other hand, numerous Rishonim are of the opinion that since heat is the main element of cooking liquids, and thus “yesh bishul achar bishul” (there is a prohibition to cook even a previously cooked food item), therefore it is a Torah prohibition on Shabbat to heat soup that has cooled. This is the custom of Jews who immigrated from Sephard and Ashkenaz. However, when one is guest of a Yemenite, he is allowed to eat the soup his host heated, since it is consistent with halakha according to his minhag (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 10:6).